My First Overnight Passage
We've had lots of fun with guests onboard lately. Phil and Kristi from Texas spent a few days with us, culminating of course in yet another wonderful trip out to the beautiful Valle de Guadelupe for wine and food! We love taking our friends to our favourite haunts in Ensenada as well as getting a little sailing in! Samantha came for a few days of paddleboarding and chilling with us too and finally Lauren and Griffin were coming down to Mexico for a few days before they headed to Hawaii for a vacation with the Lakers.
Are Darrin and Phil REALLY working? Hmm...
A few months ago we decided to take the boat to San Diego for a while as we wait for hurricane season to end so we can head south. It would be kind of a shakedown cruise, figure out what is and isn't working on the boat, get off the dock, brush up on our sailing and anchoring skills and see more of a city we've really grown to love. We thought it would be fun to take Lauren and Griffin back to San Diego via our boat - we were heading that way anyway and it would be a new experience for them, as well as having extra crew for us on the boat. We were travelling with two other "buddy" boats, SV Joy and SV Bella Vita and we'd spent the previous few days getting the boat in order, sharing our planned route with the others, obsessively checking the weather, basically getting everything as ship shape as possible. We cleared out of Mexico on Monday morning with a planned departure time of 2am Tuesday morning. I think we were all a bit excited to be heading out, nervous too. The day was spent getting the boat into passage making mode, putting things away, tying things down, getting the dinghy on deck, filling up water tanks and topping up batteries. We tried to get a little sleep before our early morning wake up call - I didn't get much, I don't think any of us did really!
Grant and Barbara of SV Joy checking out with the help of our agent. All ready to go!
To say I was nervous about a night passage was a bit of an understatement. I've never sailed at night. I get nervous in broad daylight. Actually I'm nervous about everything as most of you know. There was very little moon to light the way, just a thin crescent rising above the mountains behind the city. There's a lot of fish pens and lobster pots in the water and it's impossible to see the pots during the day on a rolly sea, much less at night. Fortunately the fish pens are marked on the charts, but just to make sure we'd avoid all we could, Darrin charted our course to be in no less than 200 feet of water for the night hours as pots aren't usually dropped that deep.
And so we set off. Our lovely neighbors, Linda and Ken on SV Blade & Wing, got up (or did we wake them with our racket?) to cast off our lines and see us on our way. SV Joy slipped silently out of the marina ahead of us, Bella Vita followed behind and there we all were, outside the breakwater, the lights of Ensenada behind us and inky blackness ahead. It was windless with a bit of a swell, nothing too dramatic though. Our planned trip would take us about 10 hours and we knew we'd be motoring the whole way as the forecast told us light and variable winds was all we could expect. And so, strung out in a line, off we went into the darkness. As we traveled further from Ensenada and it's city lights, surprisingly I actually felt quite calm and peaceful even though the seas became quite rolly. It was comforting to look back and see the lights of Joy and Bella Vita behind us and we were all in radio contact too. After motoring for an hour or so I decided to venture below to see if I could nap and also find out if I was going to be seasick. With earplugs in I was able to nap lightly for a few hours and didn't feel sick at all! Not so Lauren and Griffin. I came on deck to see Griffin laying down with a blanket and Lauren hanging over the side vomiting. Not good. Our awesome captain was running around getting crackers and water, watching out for boats, making sure we were still going in the right direction, just generally being the fabulous guy he is, taking care of his crew and getting us to where we needed to be safely.
By this time the marine layer was obscuring the sunrise and the swell was larger than predicted but it was still nice to have some light and I took over the helm so Darrin could get a little sleep too. The kids were flat out seasick and unfortunately all we could do was try to keep them comfortable and hydrated. Sleep seemed to help the most though and even in the throes of seasick misery, Lauren was still smiling and being her usual sweet self! The dolphins off our bow took the focus off the seasickness for a little while but it got a little more rolly. Lauren was thrown off her seat and Griffin said "Are we still on the boat?" after one particularly large swell hit our side! Not long after this, the sea state calmed a little and I think they started to feel a little better.
Coming into Shelter Island, our first stop for the night, was quite the experience. Boats everywhere - mega yachts, sailboats, aircraft carriers, warships, jet skis, harbor police and fishing boats going every which way, along with helicopters, fighter jets, commercial flights and cargo planes overhead. Madness all around. We had a reservation at the public dock for the night and we needed to clear in to the USA. We found our slip was taken by someone else so we called the moorage office and they found us somewhere else to tie up. We also called Customs to let them know we needed to check in, they said they'd send someone down. And then - nothing. No one from Customs came down. (Just to preface this - no one, except the captain can get off the boat until everyone is checked in.) Griffin's sister Payton was at the dock to pick them up for their trip to Hawaii. We waited for hours and no one came. Finally I called Customs and they were absolutely gobsmacked that no one had checked us in. Finally Darrin found a Customs agent on the dock and it turned out we were in the wrong place. We were supposed to stay on the police dock until checked in, before going to the slip (about 40 ft away). No one told us that. Nothing said that on the website when I made the reservation. I had tried to use the new ROAM app (it allows you to check in remotely prior to arriving but it kept kicking me out, I suspect because I don't have a US passport) to no avail. Anywhoo...4 hours and much frustration later, we were all checked in and the kids were finally on their way. I think it was probably the longest most miserable day of their lives and I'm pretty sure we'll never convince them to sail again!
Upon reflection of this passage, I'm kind of surprised with myself. I wasn't as afraid as I thought I would be. Even though it was a bit rough at times, I never felt like I was in danger or that it was something I couldn't handle. I felt quite calm really. Happy. Maybe I'm saltier than I thought I was.
The guest dock at Shelter Island is an interesting place. All sorts of people coming and going. All sorts of drama. It was like watching Rear Window but from our boat. A little tableaux stage right before exiting stage left and the next scene being set, unbeknownst to the cast of the following performance. People sneaking in and out. Derelict boats being moved surreptitiously in the middle of the night. People fishing off the dock at 2am. Drunk people wandering about. Fights over slip reservations. Boats being driven into docks and/or other boats. People falling in the water. Dogs yapping incessantly. Stealthy paddle boarding down all the fairways. A boatload of injured people limping in with a smashed bow being driven by someone who was obviously going to get into serious trouble with his parents...we were looking forward to the quiet of the anchorage we had booked for the weekend. Alyssa and Michael were coming for a few days too. We discussed how this was going to be in detail - a two year old on a boat at an anchorage. I know lots of other people have little kids on their boats full time, but the biggest question was "Do we have enough gin onboard to deal with this?
Time would tell!